This bluesy electronic track is the lead single from Depeche Mode's 10th studio album. While Martin Gore generally doesn't like to discuss the meaning of his songs, he told the Associated Press: "It's about a lot of people that I know and me. The songs are never about one thing in particular. It's a song about loathing other people and self-loathing for me."
The album was produced by Mark Bell, who worked with Bjork the previous year on the Dancer In The Dark soundtrack, Selmasongs. Dave Gahan, who sang lead vocals on the track, told Entertainment Weekly how Bell's collaboration with the Icelandic singer influenced "Dream On." He said: "He taught me some interesting things about using my voice because he had been working with Björk before that, and he brought in a lot of the things she was doing with her voice into the studio. I learned how to sing very quietly and very close to the microphone, to use all the noises in my voice to be able to create this creature, this thing, and 'Dream On' was one of those songs lyrically where it was a character that I was becoming, that I could be without all the misery. I could step into it, and step out."
Gore explained how the band created the song's electronic and acoustic atmosphere with the album's technical team: "We were going to take the original demo I just played to Gareth [Jones, engineer] and Paul [Freegard, pre-production]. I just played it on the guitar and the idea was to not use a guitar at all, just to take it off in a totally different direction. After we'd been working on it for about four days, we had this real kind of edgy electronic percussion going on in the background and we just cut the original guitar that I'd played in and it just sounded really good, because it was just so different to everything else that was going on in the track."
Mark Bell on working with electronic sounds (Keyboard magazine, 2001): "We treated the electronic sounds in 'Dream On' with the same respect as the acoustic ones. I find it really boring when electronic things are treated as if they're from the future, with all that phrasing and bouncing silly shit all over the place. This one was really honest with the complete live performances intact, with decorative electronics adding to the pace and the narrative of the song."
This was a #1 hit on the US Dance Club Songs chart. It also peaked at #12 on the Alternative chart.
This was used on Alias in the 2002 episode "Masquerade" when Sydney (Jennifer Garner) and Noah Hicks (Peter Berg) get close in the safe house. It was also used on Charmed in the 2001 episode "All Hell Breaks Loose" after the opening credits.